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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
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Producing materials in alternative format

Many disabled students cannot access text easily and there are a variety of methods by which this problem can be overcome. Some of these methods require the use of assistive technology . However, due to recent legislation (SENDA [?]), universities cannot rely on the individual to find the solution and alternative versions need to be produced, especially if the document, such as the prospectus, is available to a wide audience. Some universities are even providing their own transcription services [External link: Open in new browser window] where staff are paid using the student's Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) [?].

There are various ways of producing accessible text depending on the requirements of the student:


This is a system of representing the alphabet and various punctuation marks using a series of raised dots. The dots are produced on special paper by a braille embosser [External link: Open in new browser window] and this is often linked into a computer by specialist software. Not all blind and visually impaired students read braille so don't assume that this will be the preferred format. Braille paper versions of documents are also much bulkier and can be expensive to produce. Transcription services are available and production times may be as short as 24 hours depending on the document size. There is also an alternative system called Moon. [External link: Open in new browser window]

Useful links

Spoken Word

Documents can also be read out and recorded using audio recording systems (tape recorders, mini-disks etc.). As with brailling there are companies that can produce these and nowadays turnaround time can be as little as 24 hours depending on the length of the document. Some visually impaired students pay a team of readers to voice documents (journal articles, chapters from books) onto tape. Departments can help by advertising for current students to form such a team.

The RNIB run a cassette library and there is a National Library for the Blind in Stockport (0161 494 0217).

Useful links

Large print

The Royal National Institute for the Blind recommend producing versions of documents in enlarged font, which is no smaller than 16pt and usually in type that is 'sans serif' such as Arial. However, each student will be different and it is always worthwhile to check with the individual what their requirements are.

British Sign Language

You may wish to produce a video with an introduction to the university in British Sign Language on it. Over 70,000 people in the UK use BSL so there is a large potential audience. For more information:


If information or documents are placed onto websites it is important to follow guidelines for producing accessible content and coding.

Electronic versions

If at all possible always produce documents electronically and store versions on disk. These cannot only be sent to students directly but can also be used to send to transcription services.

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